Beer Recalls – What and Why
Food recalls happen all the time it seems. The most common cause is bacteria in the food – salmonella is usually the culprit here, but there have been several others. However, beer doesn’t generally suffer from problems with bacteria. The fermentation process is enough to kill off most bad bacteria, and batches that are affected enough not to go through fermentation are easily caught. Once the beer is fermented, the alcohol is enough to keep the product safe, which is why you’re able to age beer.
So, what’s up with beer recalls? What might cause such a recall, and why would it happen? These are important questions to answer, as there have been several notable recalls to make national and international headlines. The most recent is the recall issued for Corona beers, but there have been quite a few in the craft beer world as well. Let’s take a look at a few individual recalls to see just what it might take to make a brewery tell customers to bring back their purchase, or even destroy it.
In mid-August 2014, a large production range of Corona beer was recalled by the manufacturer. The only beer affected was Corona Extra, and only specific production runs were recalled. Corona clear glass 12-ounce bottles in 6, 12 and 18-packs were affected.
What’s the Issue?
Here, the problem has nothing to do with the beer, and everything to do with the bottles. According to news reports, Corona’s inspectors found some bottles contained defects that might cause glass particles to break off from the inside of the bottle and end up in the beverage itself. Consumers who purchased affected batches are urged to contact Corona, or visit the brewery’s website for more information on what to do next.
Only specific production ranges were affected by the bottle failure, and consumers can identify potential dangers by checking an 8-digit code on the neck of the bottle itself, or on the packaging for 12 and 18-packs. The codes are found below (from Corona’s website):
Corona is not the only beer company to experience a recall, only the most recent. Craft breweries have also been affected by recalls in the past. Even the Boston Beer Company, one of the largest and most popular craft breweries in the nation, has had to recall some of their beers. One of these occurred in 2008, when the company had to recall select bottles of Sam Adams for the same issue as Corona’s most recent recall – the possibility of small glass shards within the beer.
According to a press release from 2008, Boston Beer recalled a number of Sam Adams 12-ounce bottles, all of which had N 35 OI embossed on the bottoms of the bottles. The problem stemmed from one of the company’s bottle suppliers (out of five suppliers). While the supplier actually provided almost a quarter of all the bottles used by the brewery, Boston Beer estimated that only about one percent of bottles were actually affected. Still, rather than risking the safety of consumers, the brewery issued a recall, the first in its history.
So, we see another recall due to no fault of the brewery, but rather a problem on the part of a crucial supplier. However, not all beer recalls are the fault of third parties.
Goose Island began life as a craft brewery before being purchased by Budweiser’s parent company (InBev). While technically owned by big beer, Goose Island was largely left alone to continue operating as it had. The company has become known for producing some excellent brews, as well as sponsoring a number of local craft beer events around the nation (the Classic City Brew Fest in Athens, GA, for instance).
In 2010 and 2011, Goose Island saw not just one, but two recalls of different beers. The first was on the company’s Matilda ale. The second and more widespread was on Goose Island’s Sofie, a barrel-aged Saison beer. The reason for the second recall? Apparently, some bottles of Sofie were not in line with the company’s taste requirements.
A press release by Goose Island at the time stated, “During a routine tasting at our brewery, we discovered a bottle of Sofie that had flavor attributes that were different than expected. We also found the flavors associated with these samples could be variable from bottle to bottle within these three production batches.” The brewery recalled all three batches to protect its reputation, as well as its drinkers from potential bad experiences. The beer was completely safe to drink, but the brewery felt that consuming them would have a negative impact on the drinkers’ experiences.
10 Barrel Brewing Company
One of the more frightening recalls came in July of 2014 – 10 Barrel Brewing Company’s Swill beer was recalled due to fears of the bottles exploding. Apparently, some batches were undergoing secondary fermentation within the bottles, which built up too much carbonation, causing the bottles to potentially explode while being opened, or even if jostled too hard. One consumer was injured by an exploding bottle of Swill, requiring three stitches. All 12 and 24-ounce bottles of Swill were recalled, and consumers were urged to leave them unopened, and wear protective eyewear and gloves to dispose of them.
Secondary fermentation is a very real thing for many breweries, and must be watched carefully. Generally, it dissipates shortly after bottling and provides enough carbonation for “still” beers to have the fizz we’ve come to expect. However, 10 Barrel learned the hard way that this isn’t always the case.
Beer recalls happen for many different reasons, not all of them threatening. However, consumers are urged to heed the warnings put out by breweries and dispose of any bottles that fall within the listed production ranges.